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High fees could destabilise the European patent system, warn lawyers

UK Patent attorneys are warning that setting high fees for the new European Unitary Patent risks destabilising the patent system across the continent. “If fees are too high they could send a message to the world that Europe is uncompetitive,” said Jim Boff, Chairman of the CIPA Patents Committee (Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys).

“Lower fees are far more likely to attract businesses that currently only file patents at their national offices, thus increasing the number of European applications, fostering competitiveness, stabilising the new system, and helping small and medium size businesses become big businesses.” The Court of Justice of the European Union last week dismissed the final legal obstacles to the setting up of a new patent system for Europe. However, the level of court and renewal fees for the new system remains a major issue for agreement among member states.

The lowest of the proposals so far made public is for patent renewal fees to be set at the equivalent of the combined cost of filing in the four countries with the highest number of patent validations (Britain, France, Germany and Netherlands). CIPA believes that setting fees at this level (or higher) risks destabilising the entire European patent system.
Netherlands is the third most expensive country in which to file after Germany (1st) and Austria (2nd), which means that a true “Top 4” calculation for renewal fees based on GB + FR + DE + NL would result in a fee level much higher than average patenting costs.

CIPA is proposing that at the outset renewal fees be set at a near “Top 3½” level as approximating the true average of renewal fees across all Member State signatories to the Unitary Patent Agreement). Various considerations underpin applicants’ preference for GB, France and Germany among the Member States, but the provisions of the London Agreement, which make patenting in these countries financially attractive and easier as there are no translation requirements, is a key factor.

In CIPA’s view, the fees in these three countries offer a reasonable base line for setting out the Unitary Patent (UP) renewal fees level (even though Germany has the highest fees in Europe – a privilege it enjoys through being the biggest economy in Europe). Under the Unitary Patent Court (UPC) Agreement, an inventor applying for a UP will be able to enforce this patent in the 25 Member States. Given the geographical scope covered by the patent, it would be understandable to charge more than the basic rate of GB + FR + DE.

CIPA also believes that this formula would align renewal fees with the objectives of the UP system, as set out in Article 12 of the EU Regulation No. 1257/2012 which addresses various aspects of UP implementation. In accordance to Article 12(1), the level of renewal fees should be high enough to cover the grant and administrative costs of the unitary patent and ensure that the budget of the EPO is balanced.

Article 12(2) explicitly states that the renewal fees should be set at a level which: makes the UP accessible to SMEs, facilitates innovation, fosters the competitiveness of European businesses, reflects the size of the market, and is similar to the level of national renewal fees for an average European patent. Our proposal meets these requirements.
If fees were set any higher than our proposal, we fear that: many SMEs would choose to spend their limited budgets on filing at their national office, rather than take the opportunity for broad European protection; and that a message would be sent to the world that Europe is not competitive.

CIPA’s proposal is for renewal fees during the initial stage of the UP. In the light of experience with take up of the UP the fees should be adjusted to ensure that they meet the requirements of the regulation and of European and UK businesses.
CIPA believes that setting fees at the proposed level would:

– encourage more users into the European patent system,
– increase income to the EPO
– stabilise the new UP system
– have a positive impact on innovation,
– increase the competitiveness of European businesses.

CIPA is the professional and examining body for patent attorneys in the UK.

  1. In 2014, 65% of patent applications filed at the EPO originated from applicants based OUTSIDE of the EU. Therefore if increased fees reduces the number of European patent applications, the number of potential obstacles to European industry will be reduced, as these are mostly owned by foreign (non-EU)-based companies anyway. Presumably the EU would then be a more attractive place to manufacture products because there are fewer patent impediments here and fewer patent licence royalties to pay.



    Comment by Ned Ludd on May 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm
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